From today's Buster Olney blog on ESPN.com:
DeRosa primed to finally cash in
posted: Thursday, November 9, 2006
Mickey DeRosa works as a hostess at the Sea Shack restaurant in Hackensack, N.J., and husband Jack DeRosa is a shoe salesman, and the DeRosas scrimped and saved and helped their youngest son come within a year of graduating from the University of Pennsylvania. Then he left college, went off and got a job as a professional baseball player.
"If you don't finish your degree," she has teased her son, "then you owe it back to me for those three years."
The baseball thing has worked out pretty well for Mark DeRosa, and what he'd like to do now, he said last week, is give his parents the opportunity to retire. DeRosa just finished a career year at the best possible time, when Major League Baseball is thriving and teams are making money and general managers have lots of cash to spend.
Because the 31-year-old DeRosa has shown the ability to play multiple positions, in the infield and in the outfield, he's likely to command a lucrative three-year contract this offseason. He's never made the big, seven-figure money in major league baseball, but he'll probably get a life-changing deal in the weeks to come.
"He's made himself into a very capable offensive and versatile player," says a veteran scout. "He can be a Chone Figgins-Tony Phillips type of guy. He's the total package -- probably a shade above an average defensive third baseman, an adequate second [baseman], an average outfielder, and he kills left-handed pitchers. He's a very intelligent kid, a leader in the clubhouse.
"His versatility is well-suited for a championship contender."
The Mets have already checked in on his availability, and so have the Reds, Orioles, Red Sox, Cardinals, Cubs, Giants and Phillies -- more than a dozen teams in all. Two winters ago, DeRosa was still healing from a knee injury, and teams offered minor league contracts and spring training invites. Not anymore.
"This is so different for me," DeRosa said. "I'm more enjoying it than stressing about it."
Going into last season, DeRosa was concerned enough about his standing in the big leagues that he turned down an offer to play in the World Baseball Classic, in order to remain with the Rangers in spring training and play in front of the team's decision makers. When Ian Kinsler went down with an injury, DeRosa stepped in, and a lot of the work he had done with Rangers hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo since the start of the 2005 season manifested itself.
DeRosa had been known as a hitter who could be vulnerable to inside fastballs through his years in the Braves organization, and he hit .263 in 2003 and .239 in 2004; he tended to swing with his weight shifted onto his front foot. With Jaramillo's help, "we kind of threw out the old swing and started from scratch," DeRosa said.
Together, DeRosa and Jaramillo installed a device into his hitting mechanics -- a toe-tap -- which enabled him, before every swing, to keep his weight back a little longer. (You can see the toe-tap here, in this at-bat against the Angels' Francisco Rodriguez.)
Because he keeps his weight back, he is in a much better position to attack the kind of inside fastballs that had once jammed him. Barry Zito, for example, used to get him out by throwing cut fastballs inside, but with his adjustments, he has hit Zito hard, most recently with a monster home run.
"I could get to every pitch," DeRosa said, "and feeling that way breeds success. Rudy has a phenomenal way of making you believe you are better than you really are."
DeRosa hit .296 last season, including a .342 average against left-handed pitchers, while playing six different positions. "In my perfect world, I'd want to play shortstop [every day], but that's not going to happen," he said. "I prefer the infield over the outfield; second base. I'd love to play one position, but this utility role has helped me get where I'm at, and it has kind of become in vogue with guys like [Ryan] Freel and Figgins."
Since DeRosa was a boy, his mother recalled this week, he had talked about becoming a major league player, talked about doing well and giving his parents a chance to stop working. Mickey DeRosa jokes about the Penn tuition refund, and she is not ready to retire. But she knows how much it means to Mark that he would be in position to share his success. "He's always been an extremely grateful person," Mickey DeRosa said. "It's a little boy's dream, and fortunately for Mark, it's come true."